Skip to main content


21:22 28th April 2012

Carlisle 4 Exeter City 1

Exeter City's three season stay in the third tier of English football came to an end this afternoon after a 4-1 defeat at Brunton Park.

Liam Sercombe's 35th minute finish drew City level just seconds after Francois Zoko had given the Play Off hopefuls the lead.

But when Jordan Cook lifted the ball over Lenny Pidgeley just before half-time and Liam Noble grabbed the third after the interval City's hopes of the great escape were fading fast.

They looked to have a lifeline though when Alan Gow was tugged back by keeper Adam Collin only for Dan Nardiello's effort to crash back off the bar and despite creating plenty of chances the game wasput to bed when Zoko blasted home his second.

It means the Grecians, along with Wycombe, Chesterfield and Rochdale will be playing League Two football next season.


Paul Tisdale made just one change to the side that beat Walsall 4-2 last weekend, Scot Bennett returning to the starting line-up after injury in place of fellow youth product Tom Nichols. It meant Bennett starting in midfield giving Sercombe the chance to push forward and try to improve on his recent goalscoring form.

Both sides came in to this match knowing that only a win would do and that scenario meant the game hurtled from end to another with chances galore for both sides the first of which came after just a matter of seconds with Liam Noble's drilled shot flying just wide of Lenny Pidgeley's post.

City's 4-2 victory over Walsall last weekend included a moment of real controversy (and a moment of relief for the home fans) when a long range effort flew off both of Pidgeley's posts and out to safety despite claims it crossed the line. Just two minutes into this match the tables were turned.

Nardiello beat the offside trap and once inside the box lifted the ball over Collin and it managed to hit the post, the crossbar, the line and then the boot of a very relieved Carlisle defender as he hacked the ball to safety. Nardiello seemed to think it was in but referee Mr Graham was having none of it.

The home side were making good use of the flanks with City's full-backs struggling to cope with the wingplay from Carlisle. And two near identical moves showed the threat they posed. Andy Walsh producing a pair of crosses from the left hand flank and on both occasions Zoko could only head straight at Pidgeley.

And they continued to threaten the former Carlisle shotstopper's goal which was left rattling after Liam Noble's right footed curler that crashed off the bar and to safety.

It was then City's turn to threaten on the break, Nardiello forcing a low save from Collin but Sercombe just couldn't get to the loose ball inside the box.

Alan Gow looked bright once again for the Grecians with his quick feet and ability to pick a pass and he tried his luck on 22 minutes with a low left footed shot which flew across Collin's goal.

Just when it seemed like the chances were dying down the match sprung back into life again with two goals in a minute. Zoko managed to muscle Steve Tully off the ball in the right-back slot and swapped passes with Sunderland loanee Cook before composing himself and firing a shot across goal and into the bottom corner.

The response from City was instant. David Noble set Billy Jones free down the left-hand side and his perfect left-footed cross was put in the back of the net by a delighted Sercombe at the back post for his fifth goal in four games.

Eight minutes later it was 2-1 with a really disappointing goal from a red and white perspective. A hopeful high ball from Danny Livesey in his own half went over the Grecian backline and Cook had evaded the offside trap in the left-back position. Allowing the ball to bounce Cook then showed fantastic composure to lift the ball over Pidgeley who had raced out of his goal and got caught in no man's land.

The final opportunity of a breathless first half was James Dunne strike a free-kick from 25 yards that flew very high and wide.

At half time City's relegation struggle was well and truly put in perspective as Carlisle striker Lee Miller and his three children came on the pitch to a rapturous applause from both sets of fans. Miller's 29-year-old wife Donna died this week. Suddenly football didn't seem quite so important.

When the action resumed at a chilly Brunton Park Carlisle continued where they'd left off with the third goal on 51 minutes. Jon-Paul McGovern flew down the right wing and pulled the ball back into the centre where Zoko teed up Liam Noble who hit a first time shot into the corner.

The writing certainly looked on the wall at that point but just two minutes later the Grecians were handed a huge chance to make things interesting again. Nardiello came in from the left-hand flank and tried his luck with a simple shot that Collin couldn't handle and as Gow prepared to nip in the keeper pulled him back and the referee pointed straight to the spot.

Up stepped Nardiello to continue his close relationship with the Brunton Park woodwork with a Lionel Messi v Chelsea-esque penalty that crashed off the crossbar.

Four minutes later the increasing desperate Grecians had another big chance to close the gap, Gow sending over a lovely clipped cross that Sercombe rose to head over the bar.

A knock to Pat Baldwin meant a return to action for Richard Duffy while Elliott Frear came on for Scot Bennett and the winger had City's next chance on 70 minutes when Tully's pull-back found him a the near post but he sidefooted wide.

Pidgeley then had to deny the dangerous Cook from grabbing another goal when McGovern got the better of Jones and slipped in a lovely ball to the striker but Pidgeley saved well.

At the other end a mazy run from Gow was followed by a low shot which was pushed into the path of Nardiello for the easiest of tap-ins, only for the linesman's flag to go up. It seemed it certainly wasn't going to be his, or City's day.

And that seemed certain to be the case on 78 minutes when the powerful Zoko drove through the defence and drove the ball past the despairing Pidgeley to complete the scoring for the Cumbrians.

But City continued to give it a good go despite the inevitable conclusion, continuing to create plenty of chances, something they had really struggled to do all season until recent weeks. First Noble dragged a shot across goal then he forced Collin into a fine save at his near post.

City's match was summed up on 89 minutes. From close range Troy headed the ball towards goal and John O'Flynn, who had just been introduced for Nardiello, somehow headed the ball wide when it seemed even if he'd ducked out the way the former Spurs centre back would have scored.

    Data provided by Press Association